With Beijing behind us, Islanders should prepare for the Vashon Olympics

These muck boot triathletes cross-train with a mini donkey named Pepper. - Patrick Heagerty photo
These muck boot triathletes cross-train with a mini donkey named Pepper.
— image credit: Patrick Heagerty photo

off the beat

Well, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing just wrapped up Sunday. The closing ceremony dazzled viewers with an oversized and fiery pyrotechnic finale.

And the Beijing Olympics was the most-watched event in United States television history, upstaging the second-place event, the 1996 Athens Olympics, by 11 percent. More than 200 million Americans sat glued to their televisions for two weeks, cheering for their favorite individual, team or nation in a panoply of sports.

But now, the “Olympics nostalgia” sets in. It’ll be four more years until fans of weightlifting, gymnastics or beach volleyball can see the world’s best athletes compete for the Olympic gold, silver and bronze in each sport.

In the spirit of the games, I propose that Vashon adopt its own Olympic games, to be played on the odd years when Olympic nostalgia is at its greatest. The events and the medals themselves will, of course, have to be localized to best serve the Island community and showcase the unusual talents of its residents.

First, Vashon would have to be divided into the teams that will compete against each other for the Vashon Olympics gold, silver and bronze.

One option, commuters versus those who work on the Island, is heavily favored by members of both sides. Loyalty runs strong in these two groups, it seems.

Another choice would be to localize the teams, as is done in the Olympics — Burton versus Ellisport versus Lisabeula and so on. But this could get sticky, since boundaries can be fuzzy.

Now, for the events.

You may not know it, but you’ve already been training for one of the events that will be part of the inaugural Vashon Olympics: the triangle race, from Thriftway to the post office to the dump and back again (to pick up that one forgotten grocery item).

Next, many Islanders are veterans — for better or for worse — of the deer-dodging event. This event will be held at twilight, and vehicles must travel the length of the highway, at or above the speed limit, without hitting a deer or going off the road.

This Vashon Olympics event requires clearing the highway of all other vehicles and any pedestrians, both to avoid raceway interference and for the safety of both athletes and onlookers.

There are several events in the Vashon Olympics that simply celebrate the athleticism of Island residents. Walking around Vashon and Maury Islands certainly shows an athlete’s moxy as well as conditioning. The event on the Tramp Harbor exercise bikes test the sprinting and endurance of the talented Vashon Olympians.

My personal favorite is the muck boot triathlon, affectionately known as the Muckman. If you don’t own a pair of these highly waterproof and highly fashionable boots, I suggest you purchase a pair immediately and begin training. In some

communities, muck boots might be relegated to the more agricultural of settings, but Islanders love to wear their muck boots to the grocery store, out to dinner and even to Seattle to show them off.

The muck boot triathlon begins in Burton with a swim in the Puget Sound, wearing one’s muck boots. Then, with soggy and leaden bootclad feet, triathletes run a loop of the Burton Peninsula, followed by a bike ride.

Those who complete the race, the Muckmen — and Muckwomen — are surely as tough as those who complete the Ironman Triathlon.

Several events celebrate the natural beauty of the community. A particularly breathtaking event for spectators is the “big brush burn-off,” when Vashon Olympians across the Island will simultaneously begin to light the brush piles they’ve spent all season accumulating — with only flint and leaves. Burn piles are judged for speed of burn, technical difficulty and flare.

Speedy blackberry pulling, though challenging, is rewarding when athletes realize they just finished the yard work they’ve been putting off for a year.

Geoducking is a perennial hobby of the patient and strong of upper body. Now, these wielders of shovels will be known as Vashon Olympians, too.

There are many more events currently under consideration for inclusion in the inaugural Vashon Olympics.

But why, you ask, would an Islander compete in these local and unusual Olympics? Recognition is the obvious answer, but there’s more. The Vashon Olympics gold, silver and bronze medals are worth competing for.

The gold medalist of each Olympic event is awarded a golden ticket. This ticket is good for unlimited rides on all ferries, as well as priority loading. Never wait in a line again, and never pay a red cent for all those ferry crossings. These golden tickets are nontransferable.

The silver medalists are lucky, for they have a choice of awards. Each Olympian who earns second place in his or her event may choose one of the following: a silver platter, a silver spoon or a silver lining.

Finally, the third-place winners receive a fitted, customized, limited-edition pair of bronzed muck boots. These boots are as functional as they are blindingly bronze.

If the Vashon Olympics are to take form, Islanders must band together and fight for the right to compete in their natural environment. Make your voice heard.

— Amelia Heagerty is a reporter and editor at The Beachcomber and the only member of her family who doesn’t own muck boots.

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